There. I said it.
In a fascinating and wonderfully entertaining game, Eli Manning – yes, the same Eli Manning maligned here throughout this (and last) NFL season – lead his team into a frigid Lambeau Field where they defeated the Green Bay Packers 23-20 in overtime to win the NFC Championship.
Eli kept his cool while Brett Favre slipped a little too far into “gunslinger” mode — a tendency that has plagued his othewise great career. Eli managed the team effectively and bolstered by a solid running game and a FANTASTIC game from Plaxico Burress finds himself on the game’s greatest stage. For a team that started an ugly 0-2 and was this close to going into the abyss for the year, that’s quite an achievement.
On the AFC side, the Patriots continued their roll to history by beating the gimpy San Diego Chargers 21-12. It felt like this game was over when after two good drives that got inside the 5-yard line, the Bolts had to settle for field goals rather than touchdowns. That said, the Pats hardly looked invincible, with Tom Brady throwing 3 picks and the defense allowing Chargers (without LT, Gates and a hobbled Rivers) to move the ball pretty well.
Does that mean that the Patriots are ripe for an upset by the G-men? Well, they’ve looked beat-able in the second half of the season (see Eagles' and Ravens' games in particular) and the Giants played them tough in the last week of the season (though the only thing that was at stake was the perfect record). If Eli can keep his cool again, I foresee a game like the AFC Championship – close, maybe even potentially winnable, but ultimately a Pats victory. If he retreats to “bad Eli” it could be ugly.
And here I am in another predicament. The idea of the smug Patriots sealing the Greatest. Season. Ever. is just too hard to stomach and the schadenfreude of them going 19 AND 1 is too juicy not to want. But can I actually bring myself to cheer for Eli and the Giants?
Yes I can. Go Eli! Go Giants!
There. I said it.